‘No remorse’: Cops fined for assault

The assault of a vulnerable man by three police officers "horrified" a Heidelberg magistrate, but they will not have convictions recorded for their crimes.

Magistrate Cathy Lamble on Wednesday sentenced three Victoria Police officers to fines of $3500, $1000, and $1000 for pulling a man to the ground, punching him, hitting him six times with a baton, spraying him in the face with capsicum spray at close range and filming themselves spraying him with a garden hose, all caught on CCTV in September 2017.

Defence counsel for senior constables Brad McLeod, John Edney and Florian Hilgart asked for convictions not to be recorded so they would be more likely to be able to continue working as police officers.

Police officer John Edney at Heidelberg Magistrates Court. Picture: Ian Currie
Police officer John Edney at Heidelberg Magistrates Court. Picture: Ian Currie

When the assaults occurred the officers were at the Preston home of the man, who can only be referred to as John, because his psychologist had contacted emergency services with concerns about his health, saying he was in "extreme pain" and "needed to be treated with kid gloves."

The victim, 36 at the time, was attempting to withdraw cold turkey from an addiction to opioid pain medication prescribed after he was hit by a drunk driver.

John later told the court through a victim impact statement that the assaults had thwarted his attempt to "break that cycle" and he was still battling the addiction, sharing that he was "still haunted by their giggles" and found it difficult to leave his house.

Ms Lamble said the officers showed no evidence of remorse, regret or empathy for the "vulnerable" victim, and all three had pleaded not guilty to the assault charges.

She said they continued to blame the victim for the assaults, which occurred after he refused to open his door to them, said, "You'll have to shoot me", and then came bursting out of the door with fists raised towards Sen-Constable McLeod.

She previously found the motivation for the assaults seemed to be to "punish" the victim for charging at a police officer.

"I have been horrified by the image of (the victim) on the ground with six police officers on top of him," she said, commenting on the "inhumanity" of spraying him with the garden hose "as if washing a car" without asking his consent to wash the capsicum spray off his face.

She said the intent of filming him being sprayed with the garden hose appeared to be to "add to the humiliation already inflicted on (the victim) for their own amusement".

"Treating another human being that way is terrible," she said.

"The expectation of the community is that they will be protected by police, not that they will need protection from police."

Police officer Florian Hilgart at Heidelberg Magistrates Court. Picture: Ian Currie
Police officer Florian Hilgart at Heidelberg Magistrates Court. Picture: Ian Currie

She said the officers "hardly bothered to try to talk (the victim) down" and chose a "confrontational approach" when they "threatened to break down his front door".

But she said they were "all dedicated police officers" and had suffered from the disruption to their careers over the two-year legal proceedings.

Edney, 30, was sentenced to an adjourned undertaking of 12 months and fined $1000 for hitting the victim six times with a baton and placing his foot on the victim's head.

McLeod, 35, was sentenced to an adjourned undertaking of 12 months and fined $3500 for spraying the victim in the face at close range with capsicum spray, punching him in the stomach, and encouraging another officer to spray the victim with a garden hose while he filmed.

Hilgart, 42, was sentenced to an adjourned undertaking of 12 months and fined $1000 for spraying the victim with the garden hose so it could be filmed.

They have been suspended since April 2018 on full pay.


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